Beaver and Tapley

  • Dates 1918-Present
  • Nationality British

The firm was founded in London by Newman Richardson, shortly before the end of the first World War, to deal in Government surplus.

Surprisingly, there was never a Mr Beaver or a Mr Tapley. The name was created by Newman Richardson to sound as if the Company was old and established. This led to the sale of regimental ties and from that to screw-up tie presses and trouser presses which were a great success.

In the early thirties the company started manufacturing tea trolleys, utilising the same raw materials, which is how Beaver and Tapley became furniture manufacturers. The company made and sold an increasing range of occasional and some bedroom furniture, with a break during the Second World War, selling the product ranges wholly on price.

In 1956 Roger joined his father Justin Richardson in the business and together they decided that just being cheaper than their competitors was not the way forwards in the long term. They decided on a number of new strategies; to use some top designers; to advertise nationally; to sell on quality and design and not purely on price.

The first venture was the Penguin Bookshelf, designed in collaboration with Penguin Books. This was sold under an adaption of their trademark, and advertised within inserts in Penguins.

It was an overwhelming trade success, with orders from almost every furniture retailer in the country. However, with hindsight, calling it the Penguin Bookshelf was a mistake as people thought it was only for Penguin Books. The design, shelves and uprights in a square frame, was right as a wall hanging version but not for the floor standing model.

However, the company was convinced about the wall hanging idea. Saving space in the smaller rooms of new houses - only one floor but four walls in every room - and was determined to succeed.

The way forwards became clear when, in 1960, Roger Richardson and the designer Robert Heritage, visited the Cologne Exhibition. Here they saw a Swedish range of cabinets and shelves systems supported by wall fixed wire ladders. They decided to do away with the constricting ladders, providing a concealed fixing batten for each piece, making space saving furniture with complete freedom of arrangement. The first wall fixed range Tapley SL (SL for spirit level because there was one in every batten) was launched in 1961.

Products by Beaver and Tapley

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